This book is a groundbreaking study of the historical reasons for the divergence in public health policies adopted in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden, and the spectrum of responses to the threat of contagious diseases such as cholera, smallpox and syphilis. In particular the book examines the link between politics and prevention. Did the varying political regimes influence the styles of precaution adopted? Or was it, as Peter Baldwin argues, a matter of more basic differences between nations, above all their geographic placement in the epidemiological trajectory of contagion, that helped shape their responses and their basic assumptions about the respective claims of the sick and of society, and fundamental political decisions for and against different styles of statutory intervention? Thus the book seeks to use medical history to illuminate broader questions of the development of statutory intervention and the comparative and divergent evolution of the modern state in Europe.